News & Views

Opinion / Innovation Together

by Contagious Contributor
Pat Fahy, creative director at Seymourpowell, looks at the growing trend for connected and collaborative approaches to innovation and what this means for businesses

Over the last decade we’ve seen a dramatic shift in innovation and moreover, its emerging impact on the economy. The new globalised, digital and connected world has created a dynamic ecosystem that invites us all to be active in innovation, giving individuals, small businesses and start-ups more power and influence in shaping innovation trends. This, in turn, has challenged the approach that larger businesses and companies take to innovation and is ultimately forcing them to react. It’s this rise of a connected, collaborative and networked ecosystem of multi-skilled individuals that is creating a new dramatic change in all areas of business.

Innovation no longer comes from just one single source or a handful of big businesses. Contemporary businesses and organisations are now playing a big role by collaborating, harnessing complexity and succeeding together through a multi skilled, ‘combined-innovation’ approach. Digital technology has changed the rules and has allowed us to have an ‘Open People’ platform – encouraging more and more partnerships to evolve between individuals, companies and organisations, that all work together to develop new innovations collectively.

Recently GOV.UK ran a competition through its Innovate UK platform asking for the submission of digital ideas relevant to the sharing economy. The scheme looked for innovative solutions within tourism and travel, home improvement, construction and data and analytics, with successful applicants receiving funds for their proposed solutions and the chance to work with commercial partners.

At the same time the ‘sharing economy’ has been a hugely exciting new development in innovation, giving way to completely new businesses and services, from renting accommodation with Airbnb to working as a freelance graphic designer through online platform Upwork. The collective consumption of peer-to-peer services and growing participation in a ‘shared economy’ has strengthened the dynamic shift we are seeing in innovation towards openness and collaboration, as can be seen in the rise of crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter and GoFundMe, and apps such as Campinmygarden that helps campers find cheap pitches on private lawns.

This new global openness and connectedness allows anyone from anywhere in the world to be potential new customers. As we start to look deeper into data and the needs of these potential new customers, this will be an important driver of innovation. From how we purchase and our buying habits, to how we socially interact with each other, the way we use transport, to how we pay for things. The use of data will give companies the ability to predict future trends and new innovation will allow them to be more agile and reactive, giving them the ability to adapt their business models accordingly. Meanwhile, big data collected by ride-sharing companies such as Uber, Lyft and home sharing platforms such as Airbnb will give governments and local authorities greater insight for city planning, transport infrastructures and even environmental issues such as carbon emissions.

However, as the trend towards social, shared innovation and collaborative networks gathers momentum, and longstanding business models are disrupted, new challenges will emerge that need to be overcome by smart newly designed policies that suit individuals, companies and governments alike. Given the speed of change, it’s crucial that companies start looking to adopt new business models now that allow the ability to transform their businesses into more digitally equipped enterprises as innovation trends continue to evolve.